It’s apparent that not all of rural America is prepared to let the forces of Conservatism drive them into poverty and feudal serfdom.
The City of Chattanooga’s local public power authority had a problem a few years ago. They were plagued with power outages. The city estimated losses of about $100m annually to local business from these outages. Like most small cities in the U.S., Chattanooga’s economy was dead in the water. The solution, for the power authority, was to install a fiber-optic system to communicate with the digital equipment on the grid. This new technology would eliminate most outages and quicken restoration times when they occurred, plus render maintenance more efficient and significantly lower operating costs. The plan was to build the system for $220m (the cost of an indoor shopping mall) financed by a local bond issue, and to finish the work in ten years. During construction, Obama’s Recovery Act took effect, and it turned out that they qualified for $110m of Federal money, which meant that the project could be finished in three years. Now here’s the interesting part. At some point in the process (I’m not sure when), they realized that they were actually building a super-fast internet cable system, and that they could provide everyone in Chattanooga with internet service running at 1 gig per second —- about fifty times faster than the U.S. average.
Chattanoogans now enjoy the fastest internet service in the U.S.. In fact, it is among the fastest in the world — at below the cost of the crappy internet “service” provided by Corporate Communism. When Time Warner Cable went down, last week, Chattanoogans chuckled. Not surprisingly, Corporate Communism is fighting back, with the usual blizzard of lawsuits, FoxPravda screaming propaganda, campaign contributions, bribes and secret slush funds. A few days ago, the US telecoms industry called on the FCC to block Chattanooga’s plan to expand it’s service, and to prevent a small city in North Carolina from building a similar system. You aren’t going to find out about Chattanooga’s success on FoxPravda. I only learned of it from a British newspaper. It is already illegal for municipalities to do what Chattanooga did in twenty states, and the latest battleground is — you guessed it! — Kansas, where the Conservative ideological fanatic Sam Brownback has done more damage to the economy than anyone since Quantrill’s Raiders.
What has been the outcome of public utility-based internet service, locally provided and controlled? Chattanooga has gone from zero venture capital investors in 2009 to five highly active groups. These are financing a variety of business incubators which are pulling Chattanooga out of the doldrums. One of them is in the city’s previously abandoned downtown department store. Tech entrepreneurs are flocking to the small city in the Appalachian mountains. The city has experienced a surge of cultural growth, with literary and jazz festivals, and revitalizing downtown neighbourhoods. Local hospitals are using their high speed service to construct and transmit 3D models of patients’ internal conditions in real time, a fantastic help to surgeons, but they complain that it stops at the city limits, beyond which primitive internet service still rules. The city seems to be bubbling with ideas. It is, for example, the only city with it’s own proprietary typeface, developed locally and financed by crowdfunding.
I remember Chattanooga (population 170,000) fondly from its friendly, informal science fiction conventions, and from a long hike in its fantastically beautiful mountain hinterland. Here is a picture of Chattanooga’s mayor Andy Berke, and that grin isn’t fake.
The primitive savagery playing out in Fergusson, Missouri is not the real America. That’s the Koch Brothers’ enslaved America. This is the real thing. Americans will eventually rid themselves of the ideological chains of Conservatism, just as much of the world threw off the chains of its identical twin, Communism. This is the start.